Boehner said the bipartisan group had “smiled at each other” and “shook hands” on a deal. But, he said, Reid and Obama instructed the lawmakers who brokered the deal to withhold their final signatures from a report that would send the deal forward for a vote in order to gain leverage on the payroll tax issue.
Boehner accused Democrats of trying to leverage political concessions by holding hostage the functions of government.
Said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): “That’s what’s happening in Washington this week, and the American people need to know about it.”
Democrats fear that once the House passes the spending measure, it could adjourn for the holidays, forcing the Senate to either accept its version of the payroll tax bill or allow the tax cut to expire.
Democrats acknowledged that lawmakers were close to a deal after months of tough talks, but they denied that the two sides had reached a final agreement.
“We know for a fact that there are very important issues that remain to be resolved,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
Democrats said those issues include whether to bar the District from spending tax money on abortions for low-income women.
Another issue is whether to include language that would reverse a decision by Obama to make it easier for Americans to visit relatives in Cuba and another provision to block new standards for incandescent light bulbs.
Democrats widely acknowledged that they now think that the two measures should be linked: For them to make final concessions on the spending bill, they said, Republicans should make new compromises on the payroll tax issue.
The spending measure, they said, was an insurance policy against Republicans leaving without settling the tax issue.
If the spending issue is not resolved by Friday, lawmakers raised the possibility for the first time Tuesday that they might have to adopt a short-term continuing resolution measure this week that would keep the government open while they battle into next week.
Congressional leaders had hoped to adjourn for the year on Friday, but continued gridlock could force lawmakers to remain in Washington into next week .
For the payroll tax bill, attention now turns to the Senate, where Republicans still hope to persuade Democrats to cross party lines and back the House bill.
For instance, Sen. Mary Landrieu (La.), a proponent of expanded oil production, said Tuesday that she has not decided how to vote on the House bill.
“I support the pipeline,” she said. “But I also respect the president’s views that he does not want to be pushed into a decision.”
But Reid called a vote on the House measure an “exercise in futility.” To clear the 60-vote hurdle for consideration in the Senate, a bipartisan compromise that has so far eluded both parties will probably be necessary.
“The only way you’re going to get something done over there is get some Democratic votes,” Reid said. “The only way I can get anything done over here is get some Republican votes. That seems to scream for compromise, and I believe that’s what we need to do.”
Staff writers Paul Kane and David Nakamura contributed to this report.